Marriages of Convenience

Oh, look at that: it’s Valentine’s Day! I literally forgot about that, even though for the first time ever I just released a book that more or less qualifies as a romance.

There are several basic tropes I particularly like in romances. One of them (I’m sure this won’t surprise you) is The Marriage of Convenience. Here’s a post at Smart Bitches Trashy Books which collects a zillion romances that utilize this trope, from paranormals through historicals to contemporary romances.

Here are a couple of titles that caught my eye:

The Conductors

As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people North with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. 

I fear disappointment! Because I’m going to feel like this should be a lot like Hambly’s Benjamin January series, and when it no doubt proves different, I may not appreciate the difference. But this is a wonderful concept, and plainly has a lot more magic than the January series. It doesn’t sound much like a marriage-of-convenience romance, but it’s on this list, so we’ll see. Picking up a sample now.

Also this one, which looks much lighter in every respect:

First Comes Scandal

Georgiana Bridgerton isn’t against the idea of marriage. She’d just thought she’d have some say in the matter. But with her reputation hanging by a thread after she’s abducted for her dowry, Georgie is given two options: live out her life as a spinster or marry the rogue who has ruined her life. Enter Option #3 As the fourth son of an earl, Nicholas Rokesby is prepared to chart his own course. He has a life in Edinburgh, where he’s close to completing his medical studies, and he has no time—or interest—to find a wife. But when he discovers that Georgie Bridgerton—his literal girl-next-door—is facing ruin, he knows what he must do.

That’s a classic sort of plot, and a good one. I do like a male lead who’s a doctor or something similar instead of a duke.

That comment — about doctors — makes me think of this one that isn’t from the linked post:

The Wedding Journey: Signet Regency Romance (InterMix) by [Carla Kelly]

I enjoyed this one; it’s not exactly believable, but nicely told as long as you don’t object to certain tendency toward helpful coincidences.

While on the subject of Carla Kelly, didn’t she write a romance where the main characters were a maid and a butler? This is another marriage of convenience: they wanted to apply for positions in a household where the butler was expected to be married. The female lead gets fired from her previous job for eating a couple of raisins while baking, a detail that has stuck with me because really, raisins? So she needs another job, and she’s at least met this guy, and there we go, a marriage of convenience. I’ve read it a couple of times and like it, but the book seems to have vanished from my library and I can’t remember the title. If that sounds familiar to any of you, what was the title of that book?

One more:

Rondo Allegro

I read this one a couple of years ago and like it a lot. It’s actually a good choice right now if you’d like a very, very slow-burn historical romance with low tension. I don’t think I’m giving much away to say that things work out; I mean, it IS a romance. Here’s my review from 2019. I may start re-reading it; I think a calm, slow-paced romance re-read may be something I’m in the mood for.

And, of course, if you haven’t read it yet:

I mean, marriage of convenience, fits right in.

I feel like there are various marriages-of-convenience in SFF that I ought to be remembering. Not paranormals — secondary world or historical fantasy or both. I can’t think of them right now. If any titles occur to any of you, please drop them in the comments!

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10 thoughts on “Marriages of Convenience”

  1. The maid/butler marriage of convenience is Rose Lerner’s Listen to the Moon. I think the closest Kelly comes to a servant romance is The Lady’s Companion, but I haven’t read most of her more recent work.

  2. Mely, thank you, thank you! No wonder I couldn’t find it if I had the author wrong! You are totally correct, that’s the book I had in mind. I’m so very pleased to be able to read it again now that I can pull it to the top of the digital pile. Wow, I would never have guessed from the title that this is the one I was looking for. I kept looking discontentedly at The Lady’s Companion, which is a perfectly fine story, but not the one I wanted to re-read.

    My personal favorite by Carla Kelly is Softly Falling. It’s not such a low-tension story, but really wonderful as a historical as well as a romance. I thought The Unlikely Master Genius was light and fun, very low-tension, just what I’ve wanted the past couple of years.

  3. Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell is a sci fi/queer romance with a marriage of convenience plot. The marriage of convenience comes as a political thing — “Quick, somebody from the royal family has to marry your cousin’s widower, or our important interplanetary treaty will fall apart!”

    Some of the plot details are a little bit flimsy if you look at them too hard, but I thought the author did a good job creating a dynamic where the main characters both have really different (and wrong) expectations of what the other person wants from the marriage, so they keep misunderstanding each other. One of my favorite uses of alternating POV in romance novels is so readers can watch that sort of misunderstanding happen in real time and know exactly what’s going wrong because we were just in the other character’s mind last chapter, and the book provides a lot of that.

  4. Kathryn McConaughy

    I read Winter’s Orbit twice in a week because the library wanted it back… Very, very strong echoes of LMB’s Komarr that sometimes threw me out of the story, but otherwise I loved it.
    I just finished a marriage of convenience trilogy by K M Shea, the Court of Midnight and Deception. It was pretty relaxing. Lots of brave and lovable magical critters–and a reluctant queen who marries the man who just tried to kill her because she has to be married and at least she knows what he thinks about her. Ridiculous but fun.

  5. Thanks for the recommendations! I like the sound of the Sherwood Smith book.

    What about Tremaine’s marriage in the Fall of Ile Rein trilogy (by Martha Wells)?

  6. Mely, thanks for mentioning Rose Lerner, she is new to me but her Lively St.Lemeston books look like I’d enjoy them. After reading a sample I bought the bundle, as well as Winter’s Orbit that Elise and Kathryn liked.

    I’ve had Rondo Allegre in my digital TBR pile for a while, and forgotten that – I’ll move it up in the list as well.

  7. Oh, yes, I love how Tremaine’s marriage is handled. A real slap in the face for people trying to make trouble. And the emotional arc is believable both for Tremaine and Ilias. I love that trilogy so much. I’ve read it a bunch of times.

    Thanks for the recommendation of Winter’s Orbit, and particularly for the nudge toward The Court of Midnight and Deception. “Ridiculous but fun” is a great recommendation right now.

  8. Carla Kelly’s most recent book, “The Necklace”, is built (at least the first half) around an arranged marriage. Which is slightly different from a marriage of convenience, but it’s too late in the day for me do the mental exercise required to flesh out the difference. Anyway, if you liked “Softly Falling”, I recommend this one. It is NOT fluffy – it takes place in medieval Spain during a period when control of the land rocked between Christian and Muslim. Reminds you of why it was called the Dark Ages. But very beautiful, withal.

  9. Well, I’ve recently read Counting Crows by Mercedes Lackey (in Charmed Destinies), a rather dark story for her but I loved it.

    Also Through a Dark Glass by Barb Hendee where the heroine has to marry one of three brothers and an enchanted mirror shows her visions of three possible futures. There are three more books in the series, the mirror is the only connection, with different heroines making different choices. All of them are a bit bittersweet because, while she finds happiness, the choice also involves loss and sacrifice.

  10. Thank you, Mary, I’ll pick up The Necklace at once.

    And Through a Dark Glass sounds very interesting! I’ll pick up a sample and see how it looks. I actually really like choices that involve irrevocable loss — or mostly I do — although sometimes recently I’ve been in the mood for uncomplicated happy endings.

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